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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 25

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Djh57 under CC-BY license
Did you know that a big branch of country music is based in Bakersfield?  Some liken it to Nashville West, but actually, the Bakersfield Sound is kind of a backlash against the polished studio sound of Nashville.  The two biggest names to come out of the area are Buck Owens, who moved here in his younger days, and Merle Haggard, who grew up in the rougher area of Oildale on the other side of the Kern River from Bakersfield.

Owens achieved great fame with songs like I've Got A Tiger By The Tail, Act Naturally (which was covered by the Beatles and then Ringo Starr later), and Cryin' Time.

A lot of people came to know Buck as one of the co-hosts (along with Roy Clark) of the comedy sketch and music show, Hee Haw. 

Buck was best friends with his guitarist Don Rich.  Don, a motorcycle rider, decided to take a ride over to Morro Bay.  He hit a center divider on Highway 99 and was killed.  Buck was devistated by his friend's death and went into a deep depression that lasted for years.  By the 1980's, he had stopped recording and was running a considerable empire in Bakersfield, concentrating on owning radio stations and real estate.

In the early 70's, Buck had recorded a song written by Homer Joy called Streets of Bakersfield.  Dwight Yoakam, who was influenced by Owens and the Bakersfield Sound, wanted to record it but insisted that Owens sing it with him.  Buck was a little hesitant, but they finally recorded it in 1988.  It appears on Yoakam's album, Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room.  The song hit number 1 and was Owens first number 1 hit in 16 years.

I love Bakersfield and love this song.  If you don't know about Bakersfield, you probably think of it as a hot, dusty, stop on the way north or south to L.A.  Most people don't have a good opinion of the place...I know I didn't.  But, if you stop and start exploring, the city starts to reveal itself to you and, although it still has a lot of flaws, you find a vibrant, exciting place with a lot to do and some of the greatest food you'll eat.

The song is kind of about that.  Bakersfield attracts a lot of down-and-outs looking for something better like the first line of the song..."I came here looking for something I couldn't find anywhere else."  The singer is looking for something better on the streets of Bakersfield.  The chorus is what nails it..."you don't know me but you don't like me, say you care less how I feel"...a bitter realization that people just don't like Bakersfield without even knowing what it's like.  Then a challenge, "how many of you that sit and judge me have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?"

The video below also fits the town.  There is a large hispanic population here and the video opens up in a Mexican restaurant.  Boy, do they have good Mexican food here.  Another nod is the Mariachi style music with the small guitar and accordion.  Watch for Buck's custom Pontiac at the end of the video...this car now sits in a place of honor, mounted over the bar in the Crystal Palace, the nightclub Buck built.

Buck passed away of a heart attack after playing a set at his club in 2006.  His band, the Buckaroos, still play every Friday and Saturday night and his son Buddy Alan joins them every other week.  It's a fun night out.

OK, so here is Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens singing Streets Of Bakersfield.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
-Darryl

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